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January 24, 2013

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When Dweezil first formed the band, he was acutely aware that many people thought of his father as a musical comedian akin to Spike Jones. For the first few years he “purposely stayed away from the humor in his music because I wanted people to recognize its value as music, not as novelty.”

Since then his attitude has softened, and these days he says, “My goal (is) to give people a live experience that allowed them to hear a broad cross-section of Frank’s music—some of which they might be pretty familiar with and some might be brand new. But we wanted to be sure that we played it in a way that is most evocative of the era and also respectful of the composition itself.”

The six musicians in the band have spent countless hours mastering not only the notes but the feel of Zappa’s music. “The current version of the band only has six players,” said Dweezil, “but they’re multi-tasking and recreating the sound of several ensembles. For instance, the girl who plays saxophone also plays keyboards, and sometimes she does both at the same time. I’m covering textures ranging from piccolo flutes to violins on the guitar. It took us about 20 hours of listening as a band to figure who’s going to play which parts and where … it’s very particularly timed so this multi-tasking can take place. The lead singer in the band also plays trumpet and trombone. There’s Olympic style-choreography going on in these pieces. It’s a real challenge to learn this stuff.”

Frank Zappa was first a drummer and was always drawn as much to rhythm as to melody. He was also a very adept studio engineer and one of the first to use the studio as another instrument (much like George Martin when he was working with The Beatles). Talking about his remarkable skills in the studio, Dweezil cited the piece many regard as one of his most enduring compositions, “Peaches en Regalia.” In that tune, he said, “There’s a lot of tape machine speed manipulation in order to create textures that aren’t otherwise possible. Towards the end there are sped-up drum parts that were recorded at slow speed and then played back at regular speed changing the pitch of the instruments. He did the same thing with the saxophone lines that are in there … in essence changing the register of the instrument to a register that’s not possible to play, creating a texture and an instrument that doesn’t exist. In a way, he was inventing his own instruments. He was always on the cutting edge of production as well as composition.”

  One of the many challenges Dweezil and the band faced was reproducing the sound and feel of music made on very early synthesizers. They have much more sophisticated computerized equipment to work with, of course, and the Midi allows them to reproduce the sound and timbre of a variety of instruments through a single keyboard. But the technical challenges are only the beginning. Zappa’s music was a rich gumbo teeming with the myriad threads of American music as well as European art music. “That was one of my biggest challenges,” says his son. “I didn’t have any background in jazz, in gospel, in country … these are all styles that people take a lifetime to learn on one instrument. You have to be able to play with the right sound, the right feel, and with authority. I had to brush up on a lot of different styles that I’d never learned about so I could play some of these songs. The way I end up doing it is by playing the parts as they are on the record.”

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January 24, 2013

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April 21, 2014

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April 22, 2014

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April 23, 2014

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April 24, 2014

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April 25, 2014

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April 26, 2014

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April 27, 2014

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